Fleet maintenance and beyond
Thorough maintenance is performed on school buses at most operations year-round, but the reduction in service that occurs in the summer allows technicians to devote extra attention to the vehicles.
Cohen says all of the buses at B and B Transportation are deep-cleaned and waxed. They are also brought into the shop to receive a bout of general maintenance.
In addition to ensuring that his fleet is well maintained, Bishop says he times the delivery of new buses for the summer months, saying that it gives his technicians time to add any auxiliary equipment that was not installed at the dealership.
“The technicians perform a complete service to make sure they’re roadworthy before they’re put into service in September,” he adds.
The Trans Group’s fleet comprises just over 950 buses, 40 percent of which operate during the summer. Flood says this makes it a convenient time to install technology on the buses. “It may be a camera system, GPS technology, additional heaters or new mirrors,” Flood says, “and it may be as a result of a requirement in [one of our contracts], or it may be something that we’ve made a decision to put in our fleet to upgrade it.”
Planning for the school year
Preparing for the school year requires engaging in the most involved series of tasks over the summer. In conjunction with recruiting and training drivers and attending to buses, pupil transporters meet to discuss material for the year.
“I sit down with all of the trainers and dispatchers and we’ll calendar out meetings for the upcoming school year and determine what the training topics are going to be,” Perry says. “We’ll also make sure that the back-to-school orientation is finalized.”
Transportation departments and contractors must also ensure that routes are efficient and that parents receive up-to-date information about them.
“This involves reviewing the routes implemented during the previous school year and refining them as necessary, both with routing software and manually, as well as updating the routes on the transportation page of the district’s Website,” Pinn says.
The staff also accommodates incoming kindergartners and performs “roll-ups.” Information on kindergartners is entered into the department’s routing software database, and letters or postcards that include the child’s route are mailed to parents. Sometimes phone calls are made to parents to relay the information.
“A ‘roll-up’ is when you take your fourth graders and roll them up to the fifth grade,” Pinn explains. “It’s not a big deal unless they’re going to a different building at the other end of town. Then they’ll have a whole different routing package. Doing roll-ups gives us an opportunity to make sure that the kids are on the right buses.”
To determine their ridership, Oceanside USD transportation employees review pupil count data that was recorded monthly during the previous school year. Furthermore, the staff performs a substantial amount of field work to assess areas where new construction projects could affect the department’s routes, and to assess whether more stops needed to be added to a route. Perry says this helps the dispatchers generate routes that are as complete as possible for the start of the school year.
Whittenburg says that in addition to projecting the district’s growth for the school year and assessing routes accordingly, he and his staff assess the department’s equipment to determine whether anything should be put out of service. Bus assignment begins two to three weeks before the school year commences.
For contractors, preparing for the school year largely depends on their customers’ wishes. “For some of our customers, we get the student information and do all of the routing,” Flood says. “For other customers, they give us the routes.”
Flood says that once routes are generated, the drivers test them and the staff distributes bus passes to the students. The passes are typically mailed, but Flood says that for one of the company’s customers, the bus drivers travel to individual passengers’ houses to hand them out.
The process is similar for B and B Transportation employees. Cohen says the office staff becomes especially busy compiling information from the schools the company serves with regard to which students will require its services. “It’s one of the few businesses that completely reinvents itself every year,” he says.
B and B Transportation’s drivers come in toward the end of summer to learn the routes and review safety procedures.